The Dutch School 6

Peter de Hooch's interiors and courtyards are crisp exercises in glowing light, but are fine pictures at the same time." The Vermeer of Delft " is another example of subtle lighting. The flesh tints of the girl are over grey. Possibly the glazes have flown, but the play of light on the flat wall is a successful achievement, for it is an extremely difficult task to preserve such flatness in tones receding from a centre of light. The firm "touch" throughout is an excellent example of brushwork. It is the velvety surface of these pictures to which I would particularly draw your attention. The present neglect of the easel picture is without doubt due to the surface coarseness of much modern work, and in the few instances where high finish is attempted there is a lack, except in the hands of very few, of that freshness so fascinating in the best Dutch pieces.
We are in too great a hurry, and careless about preliminary preparations both in the direction of the necessary studies and of what should be the predetermined grounds over which the final painting is done. ,
If genre subjects are to find renewed favour, these Dutchmen, I feel certain, will show the way, and the raw empirical luminists will be left in the impasse to which they have attracted the unthinking. The means should never be more evident than the ability to use them with discrimination and with purpose. Of this the Dutch were conscious, and of this too many moderns are oblivious.
The Dutch landscapists evince with the figure painters the same exquisite surface, and although in some instances their conceptions resemble less the light of nature than do more modern landscapes, the general quality is more satisfying and better fitted to be seen on the walls of a room. Their excessive brownness is due to the brown under-painting ; and their depth to a common use of the Flemish glass with a black reflector which replaces the quicksilver of the ordinary hand-glass.
There is an interesting letter in Mr. Hamerton's "Graphic Arts," from the late Sir John Gilbert to the author, which explains the methods of the Dutch landscapists as well as of Rubens, Tenets, and others, from which I shall make a few extracts. He writes :—" The system of monochrome foundation is that of the Flemish and Dutch Schools, and it is as applicable to landscapes as to figure pictures. Rubens got his landscapes in brown all over, so did Teniers, so did the Dutch landscape and marine painters.
"They put in all the forms, clouds, distant hill, middle distance, and figures with brown, raw umber, burnt sienna, raw umber and black. Some used warmer browns than others. This work dry, they went all over the canvas with raw sienna, or raw sienna cooled to a kind of dun colour." The blues of the sky were thinly painted over this ground after it was thoroughly dry. By looking carefully into the landscapes you will see the ground shining through the blue. This gives will air and prevents coldness. You see it in the clouds, and you will not fail to see it all through the rest of the picture." It is more apparent as it comes to the foreground, which is, in fact, almost left as at first prepared.
"See Teniers, and Rubens, and indeed all of them."
Then among other observations he writes :
"In all cases and all their landscapes the monochrome system prevails. You can get the most lovely variety of greys in this way. Stumbling lightly a cool tint over the warm preparation," and so on.
<< Previous page -- Next page >>